Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author/publisher to The Pagan & The Pen Book Reviews. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.

Jul 20, 2010

Hitting The High Notes by Nan D. Arnold


Title:  Hitting the High Notes
Author:  Nan D. Arnold 
Buy Link
Publisher:  Champagne Books
Genre: Romance
Length:  220 pgs.
Other:  M/F
Reviewed by: Keri Stratton Alley

About The Book: What have green eyes, green socks, and a run away opera star have to do with a widow getting back her groove? Widow Maggie Duncan learns life is a song when she meets by chance an AWOL opera star and a certain color-blind cop. Who will partner Maggie in a very special duet?

The Review: Sometimes romance novel heroines can seem a bit formulaic. Sweet, innocent, but slightly sassy, 20-something in need of a rescue, right? In “Hitting the High Notes” you’d be delightfully wrong! Maggie Duncan is a menopausal widow fighting hot flashes and depression who has wisened up after ending an abusive marriage.

On impulse, she accompanies a seductive foreign man to his condo for wine and, as she puts it, “a snug blanket” only to leave suddenly through the fire escape as her host is accosted. When Stavros disappears, and the police take no notice, Maggie puts on her big girl panties and attempts to unravel the mystery on her own.

Ms. Arnold has created a hilariously memorable cast of characters. At first glance, Stavros/Lorenzo is everything you’d want a romance novel hero to be: suave, sophisticated, mysterious, tall, dark, and sexy with a voice that could melt hearts. Turns out he’s a neurotic run away opera singer who couldn’t face his bad reviews. Bruce Herring is an Irish cop whose solidity and simplicity entice Maggie. Woven through the entire tale are references to the best criminal gang ever invented: The Green Socks Gang. This is a gang of radical environmentalists whose vicious protests include throwing pies in famous people’s faces. Brilliantly hilarious!

But by far my favorite character in the entire book was Maggie’s best friend, Brenda. Brenda is the brazen, intelligent, confident leader of a Grandmother’s biker gang: the Dalai Mamas. She’s responsible for saving Maggie’s butt on several occasions by calling in her biker buddies for some cheerfully wielded, tough woman savvy. She’s just as liable to flash her gun as she is to show off pictures of her adorable grandchildren.

I was enormously pleased to note that Ms. Arnold has written a sequel to “Hitting the High Notes”. I can’t wait to read it, and I’m begging her to write a prequel, detailing what must have been a steamy, stormy, wild ride of a romance between Brenda and her Big Daddy.

Pagan Elements: None

Cover (Rated 1-10): 5


Disclaimer: Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author to The Pagan & The Pen. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.

Apocalypse Woman by Tyree Q. Kimber


Title: Apocalypse Woman
Author: Tyree Q. Kimber 
Publisher: Dark Roast Press
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Erotica
Length: 386 pgs.
BDSM * M/F * M/F/M * M/F/F * F/F * F/M/M * Ménage * Multiple Partners * Voyeurism
Pagan & Pagan Elements: Yes
Reviewed by: yadkny

About The Book: Selkines Ondine, a minor noblewoman without the means to fulfill her hunger for knowledge and power, faces a lonely life in service to the Aratriconian Church. To avoid this fate she makes a pact with Abryax, a fallen angel who defied the god Aratricon at the dawn of time. In exchange for bearing the demon’s child she will receive one wish for anything her heart desires. Selkines plans to use this wish to gain the wealth and power that society denies her.

But the archbishop of the Church has a secret agenda: an interest in Selkines that goes far beyond the religious. And the servants of Heaven will do anything to keep a soul they have set their sights on from Hell’s grasp.

Meanwhile Selkines’ long suffering admirer, the poet Erasmus, sets out to win her hand as well, unaware that his competition is a creature of ancient and terrible power. Abryax’s motto is that Hell gives us exactly what we want. But Selkines learns that what we want may come in a form we never expected or desired. Heaven and Hell ultimately gather for a showdown with Selkines’ body as the battlefield, but Selkines is shocked at the depth of her own capacity to love when Erasmus selflessly enters the conflict for her sake.

The Review: This story is listed in the dark fantasy erotica genre and I couldn’t agree more with that description. Small warning to those that find certain sexual situations objectionable as there are no boundaries in this story and it can be very graphic. That being said, Tyree Q. Kimber did a fantastic job of creating a riveting medieval world where the characters in the story work together AND against each other as they secretly, and not so secretly, manipulate, scheme, and plot for their own selfish agendas.

Selkines is a very learned woman who, in order to stay out of a life of servitude to the church, takes her fate into her own hands by performing a demon summoning. Her actions after that initial decision proved that she is the epitome of both the bad and good that can be found in everyone, only magnified. Her decisions bring about a domino like effect of results to those around her. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. It is easy to see why Selkines would feel the need to turn to witchcraft and I am a fan of a woman who wants to be independent, but she is also blind. Erasmus understands her completely and would give her anything she desires, but Selkines doesn’t see him as worthy and finds his attentions annoying until they aren’t there anymore. Only after things become increasingly out of control does she realize what she had right in front of her all along.

After many mistakes, Selkines’ path to redemption is commendable and the author did a wonderful job of portraying a slightly twisted happily ever after. There is also a glimpse into what life for Selkines would have been like had she not chosen a different path. This alternate ending may actually appeal to some readers and I actually felt it was more believable.

Overall this is exactly the type of story that once you read it, you’re likely to not soon forget it. It is definitely not a light read and requires much focus to make certain that things don’t become too confusing.

Pagan Elements: Spell casting, demon summoning, charms, rune carving and covens are just to name a few of the pagan elements that are in this book and there is a strong Heaven versus Hell theme.

Cover Art Rating: 5-The cover was average as far as design quality. Although, if I had seen it on a bookshelf I would have picked it up to find out what the story was about since the image doesn’t automatically give the reader any insight. In this case, the mysterious cover served its purpose to capture my attention.


Disclaimer: Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author to The Pagan & The Pen. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.

Magic Season Series by Jacqueline Paige

                       THE PAGAN & THE PEN BOOK REVIEWS

Title: Magic Season (series): Beltane Magic, Solstice Heat
Author: Jacqueline Paige
Buy Links:
Publisher: Amira Press
Genre: Paranormal, Romantic Suspense
Length: 175 pgs.
Other: M/F
Pagan & Pagan Elements: Yes
Reviewed by: Violet Harper

About the Book:
Beltane Magic: A serene woman who calls to the elements with a thought. A man of youthful charm who carries healing in his touch. Both vowed to spend their lives alone and safe, until they-re brought together by the touch of Beltane magic. Can they survive their pasts to be together as they struggle to find a killer before the wheel turns again?

Solstice Heat: A shy innocent woman with the brightest magic. A man of strength with a darker force hidden carefully within. Separated by two different life styles yet their passion and magic ignite sparks hotter than the Solstice heat. Can they work out a way to be together as they try to stop a killer from striking again?

The Review: They read like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets Twilight. There are eight main characters. The author chooses an omniscient viewpoint, which works to make the reader like all of the characters, but it comes at the expense of actually bonding with any of them. Each of the first two books—I’m assuming more are to come—focuses in on one of the couples. They pair off in the first book, Beltane Magic, even though they aren’t all aware of it. 

The writing style is friendly and conversational. When the eight get together, which happens often, almost every movement is described. It gets to be a little much at times.  Most of the verbs are passive tense, which draws attention to the fact that there is very little action, and the same verbs are used often. In one instance, I saw the word ‘struggled’ four times in five sentences. Many of the character ‘smirk’ at one another, which is a jolting thing considering they all like one another. Smirking isn’t a nice way to smile. It’s full of arrogance and malice.

Both novels are punctuated by moments of brilliance when the description draws the reader fully into the Magic Season world. At those moments, the characters are intriguing, interesting, and fully realized. It’s those moments that carry the reader through the novels. 

A serial killer strikes in Beltane Magic. I kept expecting for that mystery to be solved in the first book, but it is not. Solstice Heat is a continuation of the story. The only significant change is that Leena and Owen are a couple, so it focuses mostly on Chris and Kasey. I think both novels would have been so much stronger if the stories were told from Leena and Owen’s points of view in Beltane Magic and from Chris and Kasey’s points of view in Solstice Heat.

The dichotomy of each relationship works. Leena and Owen both have scars from their horrific pasts. They heal one another. Chris and Kasey are polar opposites. He has done some bad things, and she is nothing but energy and light. Together, they strike a perfect balance. Ms. Paige does a phenomenal job of pairing the couples in a way that helps them to grow as people and to find true happiness, and the erotic scenes are both sweet and hot. In that way, this romance is a fulfilling read. As a murder mystery, it’s frustrating that the mystery isn’t solved in either novel, and it leaves the reader wanting a resolution.

If you’re looking to spend a lot of time with a likeable group of people, I recommend this series. If you crave plot closure, I’d wait until the series is finished before reading it.

Pagan Elements: The eight main characters function like a coven. The author does a great job of illustrating the differing beliefs that exists within the Pagan community, and the way those beliefs work to bring diversity and open-mindedness into our daily lives. There are multiple circumstances in which the group performs rituals, from using magic as a way to find a killer to using collective consciousness to soothe souls. Even for those skeptical about the concept of magic, it was a remarkable look at the spiritual side of things. 

Cover (Rated 1-10): 9- I liked both covers. The expression of the woman on the cover of Beltane Magic is mysterious, inviting a closer look. The swirling symbols promise adventure. Solstice Heat has similar things going for it.


Disclaimer: Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author to The Pagan & The Pen. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.

Fetish Club Series: Dominated (#2) and Fallen (#3) by Ava Delany


Title: Fetish Club Series: Dominated (#2) and Fallen (#3)
Author: Ava Delany
Buy Links:
Publisher: Breathless Press, 
Genre: BDSM/Erotica
Length: Dominated: 19 pages/Fallen: 21 pages
Other: BDSM*M/F*Spanking*Voyeurism
Reviewed by: Violet Harper

About The Book:
Dominated: Jacqueline dominates her world, all day, every day. When she takes her friend to a fetish club, everyone expects her to be in control. Ethan, the owner of the club, has no time for anything other than work. When Jacqueline stumbles into his office by mistake, however, he teaches her the sensual pleasure which can only come from being dominated.

Fallen: Straitlaced Mandy never does anything wild. She's never even had an orgasm, but when friends take her to a fetish club to celebrate her twenty-fifth birthday, all that will change. Peter may be a buttoned-down market analyst, but he'll show Mandy that corporate and wild can mix very well.

The Review: These were two part of a four part series of short stories. The two stories I read had the exact same first chapter. It threw me off at first, but the rest of the chapters more than made up for the repetition. 

Dominated features a submissive woman who finds a hot evening with a male Dom. They don’t know one another beforehand, and they do end it with the promise of a maybe. Ms. Delany does a nice job heating up the place with a hot encounter between strangers. The reader doesn’t need this to develop into something more because this is about Jacqueline finding some bliss. It was a short read, very erotic and very well done.

In Fallen, Ms. Delany did an excellent job of bringing the reader into a fantasy world they may never want to leave. Mandy and Peter are in costume. Neither of them are themselves, and that gives them the freedom to act out a fantasy that will make the reader need a cold shower, a warm body, or a favorite toy afterward. The build-up in Fallen was even better than the rising action in Dominated. I do wish I had the first and fourth stories in the series to make this a complete experience. Luckily, each story is complete and fulfilling. I highly recommend these if you want a high-quality quickie.

Pagan Elements: It’s a little bit of a stretch, but Fallen centers on a scenario where the guy is dressed up like Pan and the woman is dressed up like an angel. It’s more of a role play, completely not meaningful in a Pagan context.

Cover (Rated 1-10): 8- The covers let you know exactly what you’re getting into. They’re attractive and hot.


Disclaimer: Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author to The Pagan & The Pen. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.

Devon Falls Series by Raine Delight



Title:  Devon Falls Series: Fiery Magic, Haunting Magic, Red Hot Magic, Sticky Magic
Author:  Raine Delight
Buy Link: 
Sticky Magic
Publisher:  Aspen Mountain Press
Genre: Erotic Romance/Paranormal 
Length: 25-48 pages each
Other: M/F
Reviewed by: Violet Harper

About The Book: Fiery Magic: Damien Dracon is back in Devon Falls, and he is about to woo the one lady he left three years ago. Family secrets and youthful pride forced him to give up the one good thing in his life: the love of Alicia Stevens. What he doesn't expect is that Alicia has a secret of her own, and it may just tear them apart. Can two former lovers find it in themselves to forgive one another and let love grow between them? Or will past secrets haunt them and tear them apart? This 4th of July is about to get explosive in Devon Falls.

Haunting Magic: Rodrick Dracon is the twin heir to the Dragon Inn. When he finds himself longing for a mate after being footloose and fancy free, he finds himself drawn to the most obnoxious, brassy woman he has ever met: Jaxon Sinclair. She is the one woman who doesn't melt when he goes by or hangs on his every word. She is just aggravating and down right sexy as sin! Soon the sparks fly, passion goes into boiling and Halloween approaches. Can a wolf shifter get this woman to heel before the full moon? Or can Jax turn the tables on this ladies man and tame the wolf?

Red Hot Magic: With the help of a charity fundraiser, Jenna sets her friend, Raven, up to find Mr. Perfect.  Raven though, has found Mr. Perfect...in her dreams. Now, if she could only find the sexy man in real life.

Sticky Magic: When a stranger stops in at her shop, Jenna is surprised by the immediate attraction. Apparently, Marc is too because he wants to get to know Jenna. A whole lot better and won’t take no for an answer.

The Review: The town of Devon Falls is home to some different kinds of people. From a family of shapeshifters to mages and dreamwalkers, the men have a little bit of everything. This idea creates a setting ripe for a series of stories about this town’s unique inhabitants.

Each of the short stories is set up along similar plot lines.  Two people, destined to be together, meet and have sex, which means they live happily ever after.  In two of the stories, the couples had established a previous relationships, whether as former lovers or as mutual antagonists. The other two operated on the love-at-first-sight premise.

Of all the stories, Haunting Magic is the best and the longest. It’s the only one where there was more than a minimal attempt to let the story unfold and to develop the characters at all. It was also free of plot incongruities that plagued the rest of the stories. The remaining of the stories read like summaries until the obligatory sex scene. I can honestly say that I didn’t feel much heat or emotion in any of the stories, and this was due to the lack of character development. Of course, the repeated phrase ‘drunken monkey sex’ doesn’t do much to set the mood, either.

The writing style is very amateurish. Clichéd statements pepper prose that is at times awkward and unwieldy. For example: ‘Raven walked into the Inn decorated with flying cupids and hearts hanging from the ceiling.’ According to this sentence, Raven (the character) is decorated with cupids and hearts.

All of the stories suffered from head-hopping. A section might start out from the woman’s point of view and shift to the man’s point of view and back again within four paragraphs.  Things like this, when added to the numerous grammatical errors, make it seem like this is something that came out of a freshman creative writing class. While there is potential here, and I saw growth from the first to the last story, it has yet to be realized.

Pagan Elements: None. Though the books contain magical creatures, everything is firmly rooted in Christianity.

Cover (Rated 1-10): 5-The covers were average as far as production quality goes.  The content of each was sweet, but they were generalized and they could have gone with any book.  Nothing visual ties the four together as a series.


Disclaimer: Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author to The Pagan & The Pen. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.

Strapless by Honoria Ravena

                                                   PAGAN & PEN BOOK REVIEWS

Title:  Strapless
Author:  Honoria Ravena
Buy Link
Publisher:  Breathless Press
Genre: Erotica
Length: 6 pgs.
Other:  F/F
Reviewed by: Violet Harper

The Book: Suffering from heartache over her broken engagement, Nadia has sworn off men. Elisheba, who has been a confidant throughout the break up, has always stood by Nadia—but Elisheba has more on her mind than friendship.

The Review: This was a quickie.  Literally.  It’s a six page story about two women having sex. I approached this story with a ton of interest, seeing as how I walk on the lesbian side of things and there is an incredible shortage of good lesbian erotica.  This wasn’t bad.  Because it was a quickie, there was no plot.  Two friends meet at a bar.  One is getting over a failed relationship with a man. The other comes out of the closet and suggests that being with a woman could be a fun way to find uncomplicated sexual release. Some people out there might question how it could escape someone’s notice that their best friend is a lesbian, but you’d be surprised at what people don’t know until they’re told.  It’s a completely believable premise.

I can’t say that either of the women are lesbians—bisexual might be a more appropriate term—and neither of them is looking for something more than multiple orgasms.  I get the sense that they will go back to men and pretend their night never happened, though there are hints that Elisheba is more into women than Nadia.  We’ll never know unless Ms. Ravena delivers another installment. (Hint, hint.)

I liked the writing style.  It was friendly, clean and clear.  It held my interest from the first word to the last, and not because of the topic.  There was a good amount of description, which is essential with erotica, and it was a hot read.  I recommend this to anyone looking to read about a short, hot encounter between women.

Pagan Elements: None

Cover (Rated 1-10): 4-It’s a woman holding a lily. The top half of her face is gone. I kept checking the size and making sure it loaded correctly because it just doesn’t look right. It’s a pretty cover, but I fail to see what it has to do with the story. If I saw this in a store, I would think it was chick lit, not erotica.

Disclaimer: Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author to The Pagan & the Pen. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.

Bride Of Death by Celina Summers


Title: Bride of Death
Author: Celina Summers
Buy Link
Publisher: Aspen Mountain Press
Length: 102 pgs., plus the author's biography and an exerpt from her new book
Other: M/F
Reviewed by: Keri Stratton Alley

About The Book: When the mischievous god of love targets Hades, the god of death falls hopelessly in love with the spring maiden Persephone--the one immortal most ill-suited for his dark domain. Her mother, Demeter, will never allow the lord of the Underworld to court her beloved daughter. The king of the gods proposes an unconventional solution: Hades may kidnap Persephone and take her to the Underworld to woo her. If Persephone agrees to marry Hades, Zeus will support the match. 
But neither god has reckoned on Demeter's inconsolable grief at the loss of her daughter. If Persephone is not returned to her, the goddess has vowed to destroy all life. Can Hades win Persephone's heart before her mother discovers who has taken her? Or will Persephone make her own wishes known as the intended bride of death? Even in the world of immortals, time is not on Hades' side.

The Review: Simply brilliant. In the world of practicing pagans, who hasn't already heard the story of Hades and Persephone? It's one of the many death/resurrection stories my circle tells at Samhain to illustrate the cycle. But usually when it's told, the focus is on Persephone's kidnapping and subsequent rescue by her mother. Hades remains personified as a stereotypical chauvinistic bad-guy who kidnaps pretty children.

Ms. Summers puts a spin on every aspect of the classic myth. Hades is portrayed as the dark, handsome, mysterious, overly-serious black sheep of the family who sneaks out to watch sunrises with Pan and longs for a wife. Persephone may be young, but she's a willful young woman who knows what she wants, and how to get it. Demeter is not heroically rescuing her despoiled daughter from Hades evil clutches - she's an over-protective, interfering, future mother-in-law who doesn't know when to let go.

Such an interesting perspective makes for an entertaining read. Plus, Ms. Summers is an excellent storyteller, leading the reader through a fast-paced romantic romp, with some steamy love scenes once Persephone admits to her attraction to Hades. This is not a very long book, so it can easily be devoured in one decadent sitting. I was quite pleased to discover that it was the first of several retellings of classic myths; I look forward to reading more of Ms. Summer's work.

Pagan Elements: Based on a classic Greek myth, Ms. Summer's story features many of the Greek pantheon, including Hades, Persephone, Demeter, Zeus, Styx, Pan, and Aphrodite.

Cover (Rated 1-10): 8-I thought the mix of classical statuary and modern photography was inspired. I would definitely have picked this book up to read the blurb on the back, based solely on the cover art.


Disclaimer: Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author to The Pagan & The Pen. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.

MisStaked by J. Morgan


Title: MisStaked
Author: J. Morgan
Buy Link
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Paranormal/Mystery/Comedy/Romance
Reviewed by: Keri Stratton Alley

About The Book: What happens when a 35 year old virginal vampire slayer, his sexy and intelligent girlfriend, and his talking chimpanzee sign on to kill the mother of all vampires? Mr. R. J. Petrifunk gets a few moments of peace as his son, Breathred, finally leaves the basement.

The Review: After only three chapters, I just gave up. I like to make note of particularly brilliant lines from books I'm reviewing to give the author some personalized kudos for a well turned phrase. Three chapters into the book, I realized I'd never be able to choose from the plethora of zingers, one liners, and ridiculously hilarious situations that constantly appeared on the pages.

A talking chimpanzee named Stud who's romantically obsessed with Estelle Getty? Vanquishing vampiric cats? A discourse on how leather chafes the thighs of a virginal vampire slayer?

J. Morgan - you got me in trouble. Because of your brilliant satirical wit, my  seven-year-old daughter reamed me out for laughing so loudly that I woke her from a dead sleep. I spit iced-tea all over my laptop. Some even went out my nose. But it was worth it.

J. Morgan really gets in depth with details and characterization - which leaves plenty of opportunity for a liberal helping of humor. Places where other authors might have glossed over become moments of comedic brilliance. The plot is doled out slowly, but steadily, with a fascinating tidbit of information about the lead characters every few chapters. And the plot is never predictable; mishaps, quirky characters, and surprising twists keep the story fresh and funny. The only disappointing element of the book was that it ended. True, the mystery was solved and the threat vanquished. But the possibility of a sequel with the same characters is too tantalizing to pass up. I'll be keeping my eyes out for more tips from the Boffrend School of Vampire Slaying and On-line Technical Support.

Pagan Elements: If you count vampires and werewolves as pagan elements, then this book had them in abundance.

Cover (Rated 1-10): 7 -the subtitle "A Comedy of Vampiric Proportions" immediately drew me in, as did the smiley face with vampire fangs. Adorably twisted cover art; much like the book, itself.

Disclaimer: Due to FTC regulations, any book reviewed on this site was sent for free by the author to The Pagan & The Pen. We are not paid to give reviews by Author or Publisher. Once review has been made, said books are deleted.